Though I’m fairly comfortable with my essay writing skills from English A Level, it was actually quite helpful to refresh the important key points for writing a successful essay. I wrote up my notes from Paul’s powerpoint below as it helps me to remember pieces of information, and is useful as a reference to look back on later.
Main focus of the essay is how do images help support, explain or understand? All essays from now on should be approached as a visual writing piece.
A good essay:
- Structure (conclusion, structured arguments)
- Spelling not important, content is what matters
- Concise (not rambling, have a secure focus)
- Critical – evaluate arguments and evidence; clear presentation of own evidence and arguments leading to conclusion; recognition of limitations in own argument (eg. denotation vs assumed meanings of illustrations)
- Establish the question and its intent
- Outline how you will go about exploring the question – you can’t cover everything!
- Define key concepts and ideas. Present theories that help examine concepts/ideas.
- Present one case – use (visual) examples. Analyse and consider in relation to the question
- Present further (opposing?) cases. Evaluate the argument so far each time
- Conclude your argument. What have you found? What is the possible answer/s to the original question. Can make generalisations on suggest possible answers.
- Contemporary illustrators should be the main research focus for all essays
- Find multiple examples to support your case
- Evaluate the position of the artist in relation to their contemporaries/historical (more weight on contemporary world)
- Look closely at the image, what is really going on? How successful was the message they were trying to communicate?
- Gather numerous examples
- Visual research is very important
- Read what others have written about contemporary illustration, artistic practices, wider social issues – Varoom/Varoomlab, It’s Nice That, creative reviews, illustration/design blogs
- Be careful of sources – are they reputable? Do they have an angle/special interest in promoting a viewpoint?
- You have the right to challenge the opinion of others – just because it is in a book it doesn’t make it true; critically question others.
- Keep them short, paraphrase long quotations
- Contextualise the quotation, what they’re trying to say
- Engage with, explore meaning, agree or disagree
- Don’t put in the quote for the sake of it
- Bold/italics to highlight key phrases or passages
- Integrate into sentences where possible
Pronouncements and Polemics:
- Avoid making crusading campaigns for or against an issue
- Precise in statistics and dates
- Email illustrators asking for motives, ask right questions (but make questions different/interesting)
- Don’t go over the top with using Thesaurus
- Replacing words to hide plagiarism can be spotted – make sure quotations and sources are explicitly included
- Don’t introduce any new content on themes
- Keep concise, about 200 words
- Refer to each paragraph/topic to review findings
- Not evaluation of your project or time management – keep this for a separate blog evaluation
- Check latest library referencing guide
- Quotes, paraphrases, key concepts all in reference list
- Alphabetical by author’s surname
- No separate headings, just one long list
- Bibliography ≠ list of references (?!) – reference list only contain sources that your essay directly references. Add books that you have read but not quoted in the bibliography.
- If referencing from Wikipedia use sourced links wherever possible
My next step…
Focus down on solid concept: are zoos helpful? Difference between zoos and wildlife centres? Compare experiences. How does this relate to illustration?